1978: The Year When Ufology Went Crazy
Copyright 2012, InterAmerica, Inc.
Spending a few days going through relatively old UFO magazines, like that above [UFO Report, June 1977], I was surprised to note that up to 1978, such magazines took a moderated stance on UFOs; that is, they were rather subdued and sensible, generally, about UFO and UFO sightings.
For instance, in the issue of UFO Report pictured above there was a mea culpa from Gray Barker for screwing up the locale pf a UFO sighting in a story he had done in the magazine (previously); a paean to Ray Palmer by John Keel, who excoriated the UFO-ET proponents and internecine sniping amongst UFO mavens; and Charles Bowen’s Saucer Central, International had several UFO sightings that were intriguing, including two that involved helmeted beings with insect eyes [Page 80].
The September 1977 UFO Report had a panoply of “monsters” and weird beings spotted near or emerging from UFOs, the article by Peter Guttilla [Page 32 ff.] The accounts were presented in a sober fashion.
That issue of UFO Report also had a blip by anthropologist Margaret Mead writing that UFOs were real and should be investigated by scientists and other professionals.
Dell’s Flying Saucers/UFO Reports  highlighted the hoaxed Zanesville (barber) photo and
Official UFO [November 1976] had one of a continuing series by Jerome Clark and the late Lucius Farish about the 1890’s airship sightings.
Yet most magazines through 1977 were rather judicious with their UFO stories, but then with the 1978 (and onward) issues, things changed,
Beyond Reality [April 1978], fraught with many typos and errors, had a letter from Stanton Friedman, from when he was located in California. Mr. Friedman was hawking a reprint of his article about Marjorie Fish’s analysis of the Betty Hill star map: $2.50 for one and $1.00 if 25 or more were ordered.
And BR had this piece [Page 66]:
Two young boys reported they saw a UFO as drawn (above).
In 1978, the year that Roswell was resurrected, ostensibly by Stanton Friedman’s contact with Jesse Marcel, Sr. whom he allegedly corrupted (per skeptics) with an insinuation that Marcel had actually gathered, not balloon debris but, flying saucer crash parts in 1947.
After that Friedmanian thrust, all things, no matter how crazy, were on the UFO table.
Magazines and the UFO community – so-called ufologists mostly – then started to sensationalize UFO accounts and reports.
From UFO Updates -- magazine, not the web-site -- [Fall 1979]:
Florida Inn State of Near Panic
UFOs Invade Bolivia
Flying Objects Play Havoc in Kentucky
UFO Reports [May 1978]:
Farmer (Billy Meier) Offers Photo Proof of Contact with Aliens
The UFO Base 40 Miles from the White House
The Super Science of the Ancients
True Flying Saucers & UFOs Quarterly [Summer 1978]:
The Real Truth Behind Those Terrifying East Coast Booms
Little People from the Planet Omni
Ideal’s UFO Magazine #2 [June 1978]:
Military Bases Under Siege by UFOs
USOs – Mysterious Objects Sighted Beneath the Seas
The American Midwest: Target for UFOs
Viking 1’s Evidence: Space Aliens are on Mars
Yes, some FS and UFO magazines also pumped up their stories, but not in as sensational way as those after 1977 did.
Why did 1978 become the red-line for UFO craziness?
I think that the spurt in nuttiness derived from the public’s ennui about UFOs and those who had staked their lives and careers on the mysterious phenomenon – Friedman, Clark, Stieger, et al. – who wanted to, who needed to, capitalize on UFOs.
After all, they had sunk their earning power and life-styles by zeroing in on UFOs and needed to recoup their lost revenues, their lost respect as solid reporters and investigators, and their lost status as rational members of society.
UFOs needed to be seen as harbingers of extraterrestrial visitation or dangerous intrusions that needed to be watched out for, to save humanity from dire consequences.
Stanton Friedman’s UFO ploy was to create, for him, an income that he lost when he quit being a reputable outer space physicist.
The other members of the ufological gang hyped UFOs, with the complicity of the magazines cited here, Fate among them, in the hope of making some money or the hope of becoming famous, in ways more than that proffered by Andy Warhol: fifteen minutes of notoriety.
Some have achieved a kind of fame – but only from within the cloistered halls of ufology, a lonely, loony segment of the normal, general society and community.
The magazines noted show that, after 1977, a kind frenetic attempt to make UFOs a viable element of societal discourse came into play.
Unfortunately, the sensationalizing of UFOs killed the phenomenon as a serious topic for discussion or study.
Some ufologists still grasp at the straws of fame and fortune but, like the magazines that they exploited and which exploited them, they are non-entities in the American and World discourse; that is, no one cares.
UFOs were once intriguing, as were those who followed the phenomenon. Today, that’s not the case.
Ufologists and their magazines killed UFOs as a serious topic.